URSU to sponsor refugees

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Syrian refugees arriving in Germany - Reuters

Syrian refugees arriving in Germany – Reuters

University matches $100,000 raised by Students Union for refugee aid

The University of Regina Students’ Union (URSU) in cooperation with the University of Regina will bring six refugees to Regina this year, continuing U of R students’ strong history of providing aid to refugees.

“[In the] mid-seventies, the University of Regina group for refugees was formed,” says President of the University, Vianne Timmons. Since then, the university has continued its support.

“The student centre, WUSC, brings in the refugees… [WUSC is] a national organization and they have brought in 1,500 students in Canada since its start, and URSU has brought in sixty students of those; that’s a pretty significant portion,” says URSU president Devon Peters.

WUSC is unique in its approach to refugees, as it combines the resettlement of refugees with providing a high level of education to ensure their future success.

In past years, URSU has used, “a levy on the student fees to bring in refugees,” according to Peters. The levy adds up to about one hundred thousand dollars, and has been used to sponsor around three refugees per year. The funds cover expenses such as rent, textbooks, clothing, and tuition in the first year. In subsequent years, the program provides one thousand dollars to refugees.

This year, Timmons announced that the University of Regina will match the one hundred thousand collected through student fees. The announcement coincided very closely to the beginnings of the Syrian refugee crisis.

The refugees currently sponsored are not from Syria, but “they come from all over the world, very difficult countries,” says Timmons. “After the Syrian crisis came out, we wanted to do a couple of things.  We wanted to do something to help refugees. We recognized its not a Syrian issue, it’s a world issue. We didn’t want it to be a one-time reaction, so we decided to match what you raise as students and then that doubles the number of refugees students.”

According to Peters, “it was a reaction to the Syrian refugee crisis, as the media labels it, but regardless of that outcome, this support will be continuing for the foreseeable future. It’s not just a one-off.”

Students supported come from “Kenya, Malawi, and sometimes the Middle East.”

In the past, the university has also helped refugees by offering “twenty thousand dollars, roughly, a year to refugees, and that’s through SAMS [Syrian American Medical Society], the regular scholarship program,” says Peters.

“WUSC is very grateful for the University of Regina’s generous offer to match their already significant contribution to the Student Refugee Program,” says Chris Eaton, executive director of WUSC. “The University of Regina has been a long-standing partner of the SRP [Student Refugee Program] thanks to their deeply committed network of students, faculty, staff, and members of the community. Today, they have demonstrated remarkable leadership in the face of this ongoing global refugee crisis, providing an exemplary model for other post-secondary education institutions to follow.”

“I’m so proud of the University of Regina students,” says Timmons. They have been doing this for forty years.”

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